Yolanda's novel is a suspenseful/romantic trilogy set in Anchorage, Alaska and Washington State. It's a love story with lots of twists! It features a detective, native Alaskan Steven Quaid, who not only loves his job; he is determined to have the white picket fence—wife and kids. The only problem is that he keeps falling for the wrong woman, and when he meets the right one, the protagonist Sarah Palmer, she's accused of murder. Steve believes Sarah is guilty of the murder of her husband and the title, The Black Widow, much deserved. What happens to change Steven's mind?
After a gritty detective becomes involved with a beautiful widow suspected of murder, rumor and obsession obstruct his quest for justice.
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Sunlight blazes on an empty canvas.
Arctic winds gather snowflakes on a frosty window ledge as a statuesque form appears. She moves past a table littered with papers. Headlines splash news of murder, but it's the photo of another young woman with features mirroring her own that draws her attention.
A different headline peeks from underneath the Anchorage Times.
Wealthy Businessman Dies in Car Crash ... BLACK WIDOW SUSPECTED!
Graphic images swirl through her head and a tear rolls down her cheek. She drifts toward an easel and a trembling hand dips a sable brush into a palette of paint.
The Westminster doorbell chimes. The brush slips and blood-red paint stains the floor.
Detective Steven Quaid waits. His Tlingit, Indian features carved from granite, mask his Irish passion ...
Will he arrest her this time?
All fingers point to her guilt.
But, is she guilty of this cunning plot? Or, just a victim of circumstantial evidence?
The door opens ...
His eyes lock on hers ...
His heart races ...
Hers skips a beat.
Now to my review...
The chase is on to find the murderer of the first victim, Debra, and it continues relentlessly as other women die. Who is committing these murders? Steven knows they are irrevocably linked to the death of Michael Palmer and his 'black' widow, Sarah Palmer. Each of the women's murder scenes is accompanied by a note - From Your Dead Valentine. The detectives know the notes are aimed at Sarah Palmer. Each of the dead women look just like her.
The murderer leads the investigative team on a merry chase, with many red herrings along the way. The murders are occurring on the 14th of each month, so the rush is on to track down the murderer before February 14th, which is calculated as the date Sarah Palmer will die -- her wedding anniversary with Michael Palmer.
Sarah Palmer is in a predicament right from the start. She is being stalked by a murderer with a penchant for knifing victims and scaring her half to death with heavy-breathing phone calls and night visits to her bedroom, yet the press and some of the police hired to protect her believe she is the murderer of Michael Palmer. As Detective Terry O'Conner says: "...while the case has gone cold, secrets never stay secrets forever." "Black widows devour husbands and Terry feared she would strike again."
Anchorage is indeed in for "another bloody winter" as bodies are found and the detectives always seem to be a step behind. Even Steven "Hawk" Quaid is flummoxed at the identity of the murderer once he convinces himself that Sarah is innocent and he means to make her his wife when the mysteries are solved.
I especially love novels where the settings are a character as they're so well wrought, but Yolanda pours her passion into her characters not her settings. The story is character driven from go to woah. I think the novel would have been much richer with more attention to detail -- Anchorage, Seattle, a Cliff House, Idaho -- so many amazing settings.
Another minus was that at times the characters didn't react as real-life people would react in similar situations, and the dialogue didn't ring true all the time -- but there is a lot of dialogue between characters, so Yolanda can be forgiven a few blips.
Overall, a great debut novel. The best thing about this murder mystery is that I never worked out 'whodunnit'. If you read it, you'll know why. I can't wait for more.
Yolanda Renee is an author to watch.
Have a great week, everyone!
- Have you read Murder, Madness and Love? What did you think?
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